Aortic Stenosis in Dogs


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 23, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. Aortic stenosis in dogs causes the heart to work harder due to a narrowed aortic valve.
  2. Breeds like the Newfoundland and Golden Retriever are more susceptible.
  3. Symptoms include reduced energy and potential fainting; heart murmurs are a common sign.
  4. Diagnosis involves echocardiography and other tests, with treatments from medication to surgery.
  5. Prevention includes responsible breeding and regular vet check-ups.
Aortic Stenosis in Dogs

What is Aortic Stenosis?

Aortic stenosis, one of the prevalent heart conditions among canines, signifies a narrowing at the aortic valve. This valve, integral to the heart's structure, allows oxygen-rich blood to flow from the heart's left ventricle into the aorta, and subsequently, to the rest of the body. When this valve is constricted, the heart compensates by working harder, leading to potential thickening of the heart muscles and a range of subsequent health issues. Recognizing and understanding this condition is vital for dog owners, ensuring they can provide optimal care for their furry companions. Investing in pet insurance can help cover treatment costs, ensuring optimal care for your pets.

Causes of Aortic Stenosis in Dogs

While the heart remains a marvel of nature's design, certain dogs unfortunately inherit a predisposition to aortic stenosis, marking it as primarily a congenital condition. Genetics plays a pivotal role, with some breeds demonstrating a higher susceptibility. However, beyond heredity, other factors occasionally come into play. Instances of acquired aortic stenosis, though less frequent, can be attributed to factors like infections or age-related cardiac changes. Awareness of these underlying causes empowers dog owners to be vigilant and proactive in their pets' heart health.

Affected Breeds

Certain breeds stand out when we delve into the genetic landscape of aortic stenosis in dogs. Breeds like the Newfoundland, Golden Retriever, and German Shepherd have historically demonstrated a heightened predisposition to this heart ailment. But it's not just limited to these; the Boxer, Rottweiler, and certain Bulldog breeds have also shown susceptibility. While genetics can map out a pattern, it's imperative for all dog owners, irrespective of their pet's breed, to remain informed and attentive. An understanding of one's breed's specific health proclivities is a cornerstone of responsible dog ownership.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation

Aortic stenosis, while insidious in nature, often manifests in discernible ways that vigilant dog owners can observe. Affected canines might display a marked reduction in energy, tiring easily even with minimal exertion. In more pronounced cases, distressing symptoms like fainting or sudden collapse may be witnessed. A frequent initial clue for many veterinarians is the detection of a heart murmur during routine examinations. However, it's pivotal to note that the symptom spectrum can vary greatly, with some dogs showing minimal signs, while others may unfortunately experience sudden and unexpected episodes. Regular check-ups and keen observation are, therefore, indispensable in safeguarding our canine companions.


Accurate diagnosis of aortic stenosis is paramount for ensuring the well-being of our beloved pets. Veterinarians typically begin with a thorough physical examination, often identifying a characteristic heart murmur indicative of the condition. Echocardiography, or an ultrasound of the heart, stands as the gold standard in diagnostic tools, offering a clear visual insight into the heart's structure and the severity of the valve narrowing. Complementary to this, an electrocardiogram (ECG) may be employed to assess the heart's electrical activity, and chest X-rays can be beneficial in gauging any heart enlargement. These diagnostic measures, when combined, provide a comprehensive assessment, allowing for timely and targeted interventions.

Treatment Options

Addressing aortic stenosis in our canine companions necessitates a tailored approach, rooted in the severity of the condition and the individual needs of the dog. For milder cases, regular monitoring coupled with periodic veterinary check-ups might suffice. However, when the condition escalates, medications designed to support heart function, such as beta-blockers, become integral. In situations where the narrowing is pronounced, surgical interventions, like balloon valvuloplasty, offer a promising avenue to alleviate the obstruction. Regardless of the chosen treatment path, a holistic approach often encompasses lifestyle and dietary adjustments to ensure our dogs maintain optimal heart health and overall well-being.

Prognosis and Long-term Management

The journey ahead for dogs diagnosed with aortic stenosis hinges largely on early detection and appropriate intervention. While some canines with mild stenosis can lead fulfilling lives with minimal intervention, those with severe narrowing may face challenges that require dedicated management. Regular veterinary consultations become the linchpin for monitoring the condition's progression and adjusting treatments as needed. Long-term management often involves a blend of medications, dietary considerations, and moderated exercise routines to minimize undue stress on the heart. With steadfast care and a proactive approach, many dogs with aortic stenosis can continue to share joyful and memorable moments with their families.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

While the genetic underpinnings of aortic stenosis challenge outright prevention, there are meaningful strides dog owners can take towards risk reduction. At the forefront is responsible breeding: by being discerning and avoiding the mating of dogs known to carry this predisposition, the incidence can be curtailed in future generations. Regular veterinary screenings, especially for breeds with a heightened susceptibility, are invaluable for early detection and timely interventions. Additionally, a balanced diet and controlled exercise regimen can bolster overall heart health. Empowerment through knowledge and proactive measures are the keys to safeguarding our canine companions from the clutches of this condition.

Case Studies

From u/orythedinosaur

“…My family and I got a little chocolate lab from a reputable breeder and she was better than any of us expected. By 3 months she slept through most nights, rarely had accidents, was learning her commands, was cuddly and active and everything we dreamed of in a dog. There were no signs of anything. She loves to run around and is the happiest pup I've ever seen. We took her to the vet for her routine check-up and they found a heart murmur. We obviously talked to the breeder as she previously had a fully cleared medical record (echo) and she's been amazing throughout the process. She's covered vet bills, and took her back to her own vet for extra tests and the heart murmur is just something the original vet missed. At this point I thought it was just a grade 3/4 heart murmur and that there were options. Yesterday she had her echo done and the situation was much worse than we thought - she has Subvalvular aortic stenosis and her life expectancy is about 3 years. They say the surgery won't really help so there isn't much we can do.”

From u/lind0

“…We adopted our dog about a year ago, at her first wellness visit the vet did note a murmur but we didn’t follow up with a separate echocardiogram. Aside from her being a short, stocky, snorty little tank she’s pretty healthy with little spurts if energy. Flash forward to this week for a vaccine visit the vet says her murmur sounds louder and we schedule the echocardiogram for today. I get the depressing call saying that she has subaortic stenosis (SAS), and the vet informs me that there is medication we can put her on to help with her blood flow but other than that there’s not much that can be done and that dogs with SAS tend to only live about 3 years but that there’s no definite prognosis.”


Aortic stenosis stands as a poignant reminder of the myriad health challenges our canine friends may face. While its genetic roots may seem daunting, advancements in veterinary medicine, combined with heightened awareness among dog owners, offer a beacon of hope. By embracing responsible breeding, prioritizing regular health check-ups, and fostering a nurturing environment, we can significantly impact the trajectory of this condition. The bond between humans and dogs is timeless, and by arming ourselves with knowledge and taking proactive steps, we can ensure that our furry family members lead the healthiest, most joyful lives possible.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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